Friday, December 29, 2017

Wilson's Words of Wisdom: Top 10 of 2017

It’s hard to believe that yet another year is in the books. 

The other day, my friends and were marveling at how quickly 2017 flew by. It feels like just yesterday we were writing out resolutions we were bound to break a few months later. 

But alas, the year's almost over, which means it's that time for me to compile my annual list of the biggest, baddest moments on the #WilsonsGuide blog this past year. 

Take a look at the most memorable highlights that yours truly has written about throughout the year and tell me: what were the highlights for you in 2017, too? 

Drop your thoughts in the comment section below and most importantly, have a fantastic New Year! 


#10) The inaugural #WilsonsGuide monthly Round Up series launched! … I kicked off the year with a brand new blog series that features different must-visit places around Los Angeles. The series started off as an accumulation of whichever interesting spots caught my attention for the month, but then organically evolved into each post having a particular theme. So now, you can find the best of the best in the city, whether it’s rooftops, hidden bars, coffee shops, fried chicken, cool outdoor places or fabulous day spas that you’re looking for. Definitely expect the series to continue next year, too!

#9) L.A. is the land of the brunches … And one restaurant that’s dishing out an incredible Sunday brunch is Firefly, in Studio City. There’s nothing like spending a few hours in the subdued but ultra chic outdoor patio, filling up on the inventive breakfast and lunch creations by Chef Perry Pollaci. You’ll find a wide range of options — from sweet to savory, healthy to decadent, and light to filling. Plus, the breakfast cocktails here put a typical mimosa to shame; one of Firefly Studio’s Bloody Marys is made with Sriracha sauce and the Pineapple Express — made with vodka, elderflower liqueur, lemon and pineapple — is as pretty to look at as it is to sip.  

#8) Some things must come to an end … And unfortunately, Studio City's Cocina Condesa was one of those cantinas that simply didn’t make it into the New Year, let alone into the second half of 2017. But it still deserves a nod for it incredible, unique take on Mexican street food. No need to get elote off the corner when you could grab some here, along with four types of guacs, ten different tacos, lots of vegetarian-friendly dishes and $5 margaritas on Mondays. Plus, there’s not many restaurants where you could bite into crunchy little toasted crickets; these critters were a hit in the Guacamole Loco, pictured below. My tears of sorrow at its closing are slowly drying and I’ll just have to check out some of the other spots — mainly The Woodman and Geezer’s Public House —  from this restaurant group.  

#7) Motown the Musical came to Los Angeles … To sweep us up in a fury of catchy show tunes, out-of-this-world dance moves and the incredible story of how the famous Motown record label came to be. Held at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, Motown the Musical serves as the biography of founder Berry Gordy, Jr. and also features more than 50 Motown hits. At times during the performance, it was hard to hear the actual performers due to the audience voraciously belting along to songs, but that’s just a testament to how contagious the energy was for this three-hour production. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait long for Motown to return! 

Photo credit: Motown the Musical website

#6) The list of Top Black-Owned Restaurants, Bars, Lounges & Eateries gets expanded … For the second year in a row, I chose to highlight some of the best black-owned spots in L.A. — adding 12 new places to the list I had started in 2016. It's now at 18 strong and includes everything from traditional Southern soul food to vegan Ethiopian and good ole Chick Fil A. And, they’re casual hole-in-the-walls to fancy white-table-linen establishments. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve been on the prowl for more places to include, so expect a few more entries, come next February!  

#5) We got our travel on … Whether it was a quick trip to Palm Springs — specifically for Tangerine-Glazed Mandarin Calamari at The Tropicale — or to Monterey, which is about a half-day’s drive north off the Central Coast and offers a wide variety of fun ocean-related activities, I wanted to highlight some low in cost but high in value destinations that aren’t too far from the greater Los Angeles area. One exception was Oahu, Hawaii, which I just had to write about because it’s so darn gorgeous. And if you think visiting Oahu is only about posting up on the Waikiki beaches, think again. My island guide will have you roaming through Chinatown at night, eating some of the best authentic Hawaiian food and visiting isolated beaches off the beaten path. 

#4) Hawaii comes to Los Angeles … Speaking of Hawaii, over the summer, I got to attend the Chef Fest Preview Dinner — an amazing five course, Hawaiian-inspired dinner hosted by the Four Seasons Hualalai. Held at the swanky Redbird in DTLA, an intimate group of foodies, writers, bloggers and industry mavericks wined and dined, and most importantly, learned more about the resort and the actual Chef Fest food festival, which takes place each year in October at the Four Seasons Hualalai. From the oysters to the massive sea bass (pictured below) and roasted pineapple cheesecake, Four Seasons Executive Chef Thomas Bellec and Redbird Chef/Owner Neal Fraser made such an amazing dinner. 2018 goal: make sure that I attend the Chef Fest. Who’s coming with me?  

#3) The Gelato Festival debuted in the U.S. … For the first time ever, the Gelato Festival — already a hit in Europe that draws 50,000 attendees annually — launched in the States, making its rounds in four cities, including Santa Barbara. Just as equally exciting, yours truly was asked to be a festival judge, tasting and testing out 10 different gelatos made by gelato experts from around the world. I shared all about what it was like to be a judge, which gelato I loved the most and ultimately, which gelato maker ended up winning the entire contest in a blog post that you can read here.  

#2) Kerry James Marshall blessed us with his art … The MOCA Grand Avenue museum opened the “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” Exhibition, which displayed the incredible paintings, artwork and larger-than-life murals that African-American artist Kerry James Marshall has created over the span of his 35-year career. Marshall positively highlights and brings undeniable worthiness to the multi-faceted black American experience, captured through his poignant and beautiful art. Running from March until July, the exhibition left the city all too soon, but you can still read all about it and catch a glimpse of his works here.

#1) A foodie festival for a very good cause … If there’s anything that I love more than eating good food, it’s eating good food for a good cause. The Masters of Taste took over the Rose Bowl once again, where more than 90 different restaurants, bars and food trucks — from all over the state — offered up bite-sized samples of food and libations. Better yet, 100 percent of proceeds — from 2,500+ ticket sales to be exact — were donated to the Union Station Homeless Services. And if you didn’t think it could get any better, it absolutely could. Even though a storm started to brew early into the afternoon, a little bit of thunder and lightning and lots of rain wouldn’t stop these festival attendees from sticking around in a wet, open field. Instead, guests cozied up and made new friends under the bright oranges umbrellas, the DJ played songs like Rihanna's "Umbrella" to keep the mood light and some brave souls even danced on the field. It was most certainly a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

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